It’s hard to tell a cheesemonger to not put cheese on everything. Especially salads.
Imagine a crunchy kale salad with garlic breadcrumbs without sharp, salty grated pecorino sprinkled delicately on top. Or a peach caprese salad without thick slices of fresh, creamy, milky mozzarella. Or a grilled chicken salad without those tangy crumbles of feta.
Sad! Tragic! Hopeless!
I got my mother on the cheese train, too. She’s become even more obsessed than I am, to the point where she yelled at me for not having blue cheese crumbles in my refrigerator 24/7, so that she could put them on her meals whenever she visits.
“And you, a cheesemonger?! To not have any blue cheese in the house?!”
But cheese doesn’t have to go on every salad. Even cheesemongers (and their mothers) can try to practice some self-discipline now and then.
In many recipes, the fresh ingredients speak for themselves, without the need for any additional dairy component to augment the flavors.
Not convinced, fellow dairy-lovers?
An autumnal salad with bosc pears, dried currants, toasted hazelnuts, and a lemony vinaigrette is all the proof you’ll need. Combined with peppery arugula, it’s a fresh recipe with enticing flavors and textures.
Resolutely simple on purpose, the dish is as elegant as it is minimal. It has no dairy to surround itself with, and no heavy, mayo-laden dressing to hide behind.
That’s why having the best ingredients, and the perfect prep, is crucial. This is when it’s absolutely necessary to use sweet, perfectly ripe pears. (For your reading pleasure, we have all the tricks of the trade to ripen your pears until they are juicy and succulent!)
Even your mom won’t miss the cheese.Print
In need of a simple, yet flavorful, salad? Make a fresh arugula salad with pears, dried currants, hazelnuts, and a lemon vinaigrette.
- 3/4 cup whole raw hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups lightly packed arugula
- 2 Bosc pears
- 1/3 cup dried currants
- Coarse salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
To Toast the Hazelnuts:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place whole nuts on an unlined baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and cool completely. Place hazelnuts on top of a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the nuts, and vigorously rub to remove most of the skins.
- Roughly chop the nuts, using a cutting board and knife, or a food processor.
To Make the Salad:
- Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl to make the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more oil or lemon juice as desired.
- Immediately before serving, thinly slice the pears. Combine all ingredients with the dressing in a large salad bowl, and toss well.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve right away.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Salad
- Method: No-Cook, Baking
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keywords: pear, arugula, hazelnut, currant
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Toast the Hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place whole hazelnuts on an unlined baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, until aromatic. They will turn slightly darker. Keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn!
Remove from the oven, and cool completely.
The skins tend to be slightly bitter. Remove them by placing the hazelnuts on top of a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the nuts, and vigorously rub to remove most of the skins. It’s completely fine if you can’t remove some of the skin – it’s still edible!
Step 2 – Make the Dressing
Need a little lemon or oil? Add more as desired!
Step 3 – Slice the Fruit
Immediately before serving, thinly slice the Bosc pears. The slices will turn brown if sliced too early before serving, so it’s best to wait until right before serving to slice and assemble.
Step 4 – Combine
Combine all ingredients with the dressing in a large salad bowl, and toss well.
Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Ditch the Cheese. You Won’t Miss It.
Blasphemous words, I know. But you’ll agree with me as soon as you try this salad.
Toss together ripe pears, lightly toasted hazelnuts, and tart dried currants with arugula in a lemony vinaigrette – an effortless gathering of fresh ingredients prepared with minimal, yet essential, culinary techniques.
The pears need to be ripened to sweet perfection. The hazelnuts should be lightly toasted, without burning. The arugula should be fresh and vibrant. The vinaigrette with bright lemons should be whisked to a homogenous, almost creamy, state, with a precious pinch of freshly cracked salt and pepper.
Cheese? Um, what cheese? I don’t think you’ll miss it at all.
Where do you stand with your salads? Do you like the simplicity of this dish? What would you do differently? Maybe top it with our savory granola instead of the hazelnuts?
Is it too hard not too resist putting creamy, tangy goat cheese on a salad like this? I’d love to get all of your ideas – please leave me a comment below.
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Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on November 23, 2013. Last updated: October 6, 2021 at 11:35 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.